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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature
Balberg, Mira

Oakland: University of California Press, 2014 pp. viii + 265. $90.00


Description: This book explores the ways in which the early rabbis reshaped biblical laws of ritual purity and impurity and argues that the rabbisí new purity discourse generated a unique notion of a bodily self. Focusing on the Mishnah, a Palestinian legal codex compiled around the turn of the third century CE, Mira Balberg shows how the rabbis constructed the processes of contracting, conveying, and managing ritual impurity as ways of negotiating the relations between oneís self and oneís body and, more broadly, the relations between oneís self and oneís human and nonhuman environments. With their heightened emphasis on subjectivity, consciousness, and self-reflection, the rabbis reinvented biblically inherited language and practices in a way that resonated with central cultural concerns and intellectual commitments of the Greco-Roman Mediterranean world. Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature adds a new dimension to the study of practices of self-making in antiquity by suggesting that not only philosophical exercises but also legal paradigms functioned as sites through which the self was shaped and improved.

Subjects: Bible, Mishnah, Talmudic and Rabbinic Literature, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches, History, History of Judaism, Greco-Roman Period

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Review by Lennart Lehmhaus
Published 1/25/2018
Citation: Lennart Lehmhaus, review of Mira Balberg, Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2018).


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